Monday, January 25, 2010

What We're Reading Now

Books on my bedside table:
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Ann Bronte
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Books on my Scholar Phase daughter #1's shelf:

Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Bleakhouse by Charles Dickens
The Golden Crown by Christ Heimerdinger
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes

Books on my Scholar Phase daughter #2's shelf:

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
Trixie Beldon and the Mysterious Code by Karen Kenney

Books on my Love of Learner's shelf:

Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

What are you reading?

Book Review: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliff

"The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, was published in the summer of 1794 by G. G. and J. Robinson of London in 4 volumes. Her fourth and most popular novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho follows the fortunes of Emily St. Aubert who suffers, among other misadventures, the death of her father, supernatural terrors in a gloomy castle, and the machinations of an Italian brigand. Often cited as the archetypal Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho plays a prominent role in Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey, in which an impressionable young woman, after reading Radcliffe's novel, comes to see her friends and acquaintances as Gothic villains and victims with amusing results."
-Summary by Wikipedia

Review by Shiloah Baker

This book is a beautifully written tale full of mystery, intrigue, valuable lessons in character and life, with an end that satisfies all the curiosities one receives when reading it.

Emily is the protagonist whose character is worthy of all girls to emulate. She is always checking her propensity for fear and superstitions. She never feels sorry for herself despite all those she loses to death, being suffered to an imprisonment in a “haunted” castle and the selfishness of those who were around for the greater part of a year.

She loses the love of her life by choice when she finds out that his character became flawed and his addictions she knew he would have problems with throughout his life. Throughout the years I have had friends whose marriages soured for one reason or another. The ones whose marriages ended due to infidelity and mistreatment often affected me the most in a melancholy way. I spoke to my wise mother-in-law about it and she said many times people are not careful in the dating process. People think they can change people or that problems in the youth will be conquered in later years, much of the time this is not so. Emily’s wisdom and prudence is a wonderful example to impressionable girls in this day and age. She shows strength of character that is not often seen in the shallow characters of protagonists today.

Centuries after this book is written, our way of life is so utterly different from those in the 1500’s. I have always been curious as to how the relationships between servants and master operated. I especially enjoyed reading what they ate: breads and cheese, fruit with cream, etc. Considering that the story took place mostly in France and Italy it gives me an idea of the types of bread and cheese. The children and I have enjoyed this faire off and on while I read the book. Blame it on pregnancy cravings. {Smile}

The author takes us to many locations without ever making the reader feel lost. The descriptions are rich and it makes one crave the reprieve of an Italian countryside. She brings the reader with Emily to two haunted castles and yet never leaves a question unanswered by the end of the book. Despite the gloomy circumstances at times in the book, it has an extremely happy ending. It is master story-telling at its finest.

When speaking of the death of an unhappy woman who committed great sins, the following wisdom is still relevant to today:
“Her death presents to us a great and awful lesson.” Continued the abbess; “let us read it, and profit by it; let it teach us to prepare ourselves for the change, that awaits us all! You are young, and have it yet in your power to secure ‘the peace that passeth all understanding’-the peace of conscience. Preserve it in your youth, that it may comfort you in age; for vain, alas! and imperfect are the good deeds of our latter years, if those of our early life have been evil!”

Living our lives the best we can not only gives us a free and clear conscience now, but when on our death beds we will have the peace of mind knowing we lived a good life.

Several of the characters were selfish, passionate, cruel and sinful. The author clearly illustrates the unhappiness of a life lived in this manner. One lesson taught was that all passions- good or bad should be bridled.
“Remember, sister, that passions are the seeds of vices as well as of virtues, from which either may spring, accordingly as they are nurtured. Unhappy they who have never been taught the art to govern them!”

I really enjoyed listening to President Uchtdorf the other night. One of the things he mentioned that really struck me was that there is no “FREE AGENCY” there is agency. Nothing is free because it all comes with a price. There is always a consequence to every choice.

By the end of the book, you learn throughout the story that while good or bad, we all must pass through sorry and hardship, but in the end if we endure we shall triumph:

“O! useful may it be to have shewn, that, though the vicious can sometimes pour affliction upon the good, their power is transient and their punishment certain; and that innocence, though oppressed by injustice, shall, supported by patience, finally triumph over misfortune!”

The Mysteries of Udolpho is a classic novel worth reading. I have shared the storyline with my children as I read and they are so excited to read it in a few years. I thought it would make a great movie, but on second thought it might appear very scary and thus giving it a rating I wouldn’t want to see. It is better that it remains a book and the ideas left to the imagination. All is explained at one time or another, but until then, enjoy the suspense and mystery!

Friday, January 22, 2010

To Book, Nook, Swim, Audible or All?

Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds and so many times my head is swimming with all that is available to us. I was homeschooled growing up and the resources my mom had to work with were slim. Still she managed to find us some neat curriculum and learning tools. Today I am a homeschooling mom and while I enjoy simplicity I also enjoy technology and technology is not always simple and there are so many options what is a modern mom to do?

The Book

Let’s start with the “old-fashioned” book. I’m a traditionalist, especially when it comes to books. I love to hold them, smell them, read them, curl up with them and dog ear the pages {shhh, don’t tell!}. I’m in love with classic books new or used. I’m a Barnes and Noble chick all the way. While other moms go to the movies or to the mall for their time out, I am sitting in a corner of a Barnes and Noble or a Borders reading and browsing books or writing an article in my notebooks. I feel inspired just being around books.

The other thrilling aspect of books is collecting them and having a library in my own home. While I enjoy brand new books I also adore perusing through used books stores. I will travel 45 minutes away just to go to a favorite used book store. You know the kind, the ones that are jam-packed full of books, old fashioned cookbooks, antique books and many of these used books stores are usually dusty or dingy. That’s okay, because book collectors know where to go to get the “good” books.

To Swim

To swim or not to swim, that is the question. Just like Netflix has DVD’s you can rent through the mail and keep as long as you’d like without late fees, BookSwim does the same thing- only with books!

BookSwim says,
“BookSwim is the first online book rental library service lending you paperbacks, hardcovers and now college textbooks Netflix®-style directly to your house, without the need to purchase! We stock all the latest bestsellers, new releases, and classics! Read your books as long as you want - no late fees! Even choose to purchase and keep the books you love!”
Sounds like a better option than the library as far as convenience. Still there’s nothing like being “around” books sitting in a library. {sigh}

The Nook

Barnes and Noble has come out with the Nook- an electronic book! Amazon has it’s Kindle, but I’m looking at the Nook because of pricing and the size of that beautiful piece of electronic glory. I’ll admit, though when I first heard of books on an electronic piece of equipment I wasn’t thrilled. I wondered how you could curl up with it; you don’t get the sensation of turning the page or looking in the back of a book store for a treasured book. You DO get free classic ebooks and the “pages” are lit up so if you want to read in bed you don’t even need a lamp. You DO get to loan an ebook to a friend who also has a Nook for two weeks.

What Barnes and Noble says about the Nook,
“Choose an eBook using the beautiful color touch screen, then watch it appear instantly on the E Ink® display, where text appears as crisp as a printed page. The 16-level gray scale display offers great contrast with no glare or backlight. Choose from five font sizes so you can read with ease.
Store as many as 1,500 eBooks, eNewspapers, and eMagazines on your nook’s 2 GB of internal storage, so you'll never be without your favorites. Need more space? Just add a Micro SD card.”


But will the Nook replace my love for books on audio? Doubtfully. I have a subscription to where I can buy one audio book for $14.95 a month. They have a children’s section and {thrill} a classics section among all the newer books as well. I LOVE that I can listen to audio books while I’m at the computer. I love that I can put them on the Ipod’s for the kids to listen to either on the stereo, in the car, or whenever they want to. It is great putting an audio book on while they’re doing dishes. They’re pulling double duty and don’t even realize it- learning and working! Audible has many sales on their audio books and even offers free audios as well!

So tell me, with all these options can a book lover like myself really have the cake and eat it too? I’m loving the options! What about you?